Saturday, October 27, 2007

New Mexico EcoSteel - the house review

I wanted to post a review of the house build to date. I've gone back through all of the photo groups and pulled out shots that gave an overview of the house at different stages of assembly. The house has actually progressed further than the lead off photo below, but I don't have any more recent photos of the house alone. So here is our review: and the latest from the site after the jump: Remember you can see photos of the entire build on the Flickr New Mexico EcoSteel House photo set, and all the EcoSteel projects in the EcoSteel photo pool. Continue reading "New Mexico EcoSteel - the house review"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Common Pond Plat House - first construction photos

The Plat House being built at the environmentally sensitive development, Common Pond, in Georgia has been under construction for several weeks. We've got the first group of photos from the developer and the builder. The house design has been adapted for SIPs, the first Plat House we've seen to utilize this system. The house site is fairly sloped, so the long rectangular shape of the Plat House lends itself to this site. The amount of cut and fill required to establish the building site is reduced because the house is fairly shallow - it hugs the slope as it is called. The SIPs panels had to be transferred from the semi truck that delivered them to a smaller flat-bed in order to manage the drive up to the site. The smaller truck was the type with the lift boom built in which was convenient for loading and unloading. Once on the site SIPs panels go up rapidly. There are several modifications that the owners and developer have worked out themselves and with the SIPs manufacturer. The house includes a garage which is on the bunk room end of the house as at this site you approach the house from that end. Other changes are to the windows, some out of the owners desires, and others apparently out of the use of SIPs. In order to "float" a window opening within a panel there needs to be some margin of panel all around the window. Many of the Plat House windows run right into the corners which may be very difficult to do with the SIPs panels. It is interesting in the photos to see how they are joining the post and beam framing of the window wall side into the SIPs panels. More images after the jump. We have also created a Flickr photo set for this project where you can see all the photos at full size if you wish. The pictures are also being placed in the LamiDesign House Plan photo pool at Flickr. Remember, visit these sites for more information: Common Pond Home Dixon Gary Realty

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

OK Tray House - second floor framing now

More photos posted to Flickr by the Owner of the 0385 Tray House under construction in Oklahoma. The second floor is framed up now and the roof should be following shortly. The garage walls are done, and the roof of the garage will no doubt be done with the carport. So far so good - the house looks sweet. The owner has been shooting a series of panoramic photos that he is stitching together from individual shots. Check them out in the slide show below - its worth clicking through to Flickr to look at them full size. Here is a close up of the floor trusses that were used for the second floor. These are great because they make it so much easier to run pipes and ducts. Its not as necessary for the first floor if you are over a crawlspace, but if you want a finished basement they are also good for saving your headroom from duct soffits. And for the second floor they are ideal. More photos after the jump. The owner's photos posted to the older entries are at this Flickr site. The new ones from this entry are at a different user name here. Good Dog!

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Mexico EcoSteel House: Observatory scope and dome installed

This is an exciting installment of the New Mexico EcoSteel House story. This week the telescope arrived and was installed onto the instrument pier of the observatory. This was done before the dome was set to ease the installation. The telescope was already installed on its mount, and both were simply lifted into place by the crane. The dome followed the next day completing a big step for the observatory. There is still not power at the site, so the scope is not up and running yet. I'm sure we will see some photos from it as soon as its powered up and calibrated to the control software and dome. In the Flickr photo stream below you can see photos of the scope arriving and being installed. The telescope is manufactured by RC Optical Systems who makes telescopes for astronomy as well as military use. The particular type of telescope is a ritchey-chretien design which is well regarded for its clear imaging and very low distortion. You will notice that it has an open truss-work rather then a cylindrical barrel. This helps discourage thermal convection within the body of the scope, which would cause distortion with the different density of air in the currents - think of a mirage over hot pavement in the summer. I know this seems like its over the top, but for comparison you should look at a big boy - the twin Keck observatories at Mauna Kea, Hawaii - click through to the interior photos to see the size of their trussed instrument. Our entire dome would fit inside! (these photos are from a visit to the facility by the owners of RC Optical). There is is, looking much like our earlier drawings. And finally the Flickr photo stream after the jump. Remember you can see photos of the entire build on the Flickr New Mexico EcoSteel House photo set, and all the EcoSteel projects in the EcoSteel photo pool. Continue reading "New Mexico EcoSteel House: Observatory scope and dome installed"

IBU Houses - Safe Green Blocks LLC, the wizard behind the curtain

This post is for you if you are as big an IBU geek as me. I've been meaning for a while to write up some background on the people helping in my effort to develop IBU housing: Safe Green Blocks, or SG Blocks is a new venture formed by a group of people who have been behind several prominent efforts at preparing shipping containers for building. Long time readers of the FabPreFab messageboards may recognize the name of David Cross. David has a background in the merchant marine and came to the realization long ago that shipping containers made a compelling basis for a construction system, long before it became a focus of attention as an interesting off-shoot of the recent prefab movement. David is perhaps best known for a series of prototype house projects that he ushered through various permitting and funding hurdles, with one of those projects in Tampa receiving widespread publicity as the focus of several segments of Bob Villa's tv series. However his first prototype was built in North Charleston, South Carolina, and shocked the readership of the FabPreFab messageboard when it was posted - up till then the whole idea of building houses with these things seemed like just a theory. When David began these efforts they were an offshoot of the work he was doing in container modification for the Tampa Armature Works, or TAW. A large vendor in remote site power generation, and associated shelters David's container expertise was being put to work for them in their main business. At the same time they were supportive of his pursuit of housing and building with the containers as a way to expand this part of their business. Eventually however they parted ways as David set out to concentrate on this 100%. Joining him were business partners that had previously provided engineering and logistics expertise in the container mods that he had done before - SG Blocks was born. One of these partners is Steve Armstrong, a structural engineer who has over the years provided David with consultation on container mods, and was in from day one on David's efforts to create housing. While David was on his journey Steve was on his own. During this span of time Steve went to work for a large senior housing developer, Stratford, and while he was there he continued to consult to David. Enter Bruce Russell and Paul Gavin who were with Stratord and watching the work that David and Steve were doing. This group formed the foundation of SG Blocks which was completed with a relationship with ConGlobal, an nationwide container handler who provides the raw material at sites all across the country. These multiple depot sites double as fabrication sites allowing them to cover the entire country, and reduce shipping distances. So in one way or another the partners of this group have had a hand in many of the container projects you have seen on the internet, and they have been providing technical back up for me as I've worked up my the design of my proposed system. They have the technical know how to see projects through to completion including the backup that may be required for a rigorous permitting environment. Here is a link to their site: And here is a link to an article about their business: SG Blocks in Charlseton Business. A good read if your interested in this. Now, lets build some IBU houses people!

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Austin, Tx Porch House - a brand new customer build

We are very pleased to introduce a new customer build, this time the first customer to follow up and show us the construction of their 0367 Porch House. I won't spend time reviewing the design of the Porch House here on the blog. If you are not familiar with the house I'd encourage you to click through and look at the design as you review the construction photos. The house was intended as a weekend or vacation house, although there is no reason it could not be used for a full time residence or modified in any other personal way. The most unique feature of the house is the ground level screened living area. This really lets you transform the house during fair weather allowing you to move your life into the living and sleeping porches. The owners have a great site nestled among a stand of live oaks and cedars. They are building the Porch House right between several of the trees which I think really reinforces that connection between the inside and outside. In the photos we can see their footing piers in process. The long footings in the center lie below the stair which should give you some orientation to the floor plan. The owners are going to be using some interesting green tech in the house. They are planning on a composting toilet, and a small septic system that will deal only with grey water from the sinks and kitchen. They are also going to be collecting rainwater, and they have plans to modify the roof slope to simplify the collection of the run off on one side of the house. We'll have to watch and see how that plays out. Their long range plan is to add a 0242 Plat House to the site here and with a connection between them use both structures to house their growing family. This is a great plan and again is another great opportunity that the houses offer as they all share some common design themes. So we would like to welcome them to the LamiDesign modern house plan family and thank them for sharing their project with us, and with you here on our blog. And its a good time to throw back thanks to materialicious who made a very appreciated appeal to see this very house built; and also to Land+Living who covered the Porch House in their blog several years ago, where it has continued to be one of the most commented entries on their site. Thanks for the support and I hope you all enjoy watching this as much as me.

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OK Tray House - Framing up

In typical fashion, once the carpenters get to work the house takes shape very quickly. The Oklahoma Tray House appears to be no exception as in the interval since the last photos were received the garage and half the ground floor framing is up. There is a lot of lumber staged on the site for the rest of the house as well. This view below is from the rear of the house, which if you reference the Tray House floor plan lays out with the garage at the left, and the kitchen in the middle, and living room to the right of the framing we see here. And from the front we can see the large window in the living room and the recess at the front porch and entry. The horizontal windows at the kitchen, and the taller window from the mud room at the far end, with the garage beyond. Here we can see the joining of the slab on grade at the front of the house with the basement construction at the rear, as their floor joists are just going in. Looking to the left you can see the kitchen which is open to the living spaces which will be over the basement, and the laundry and rest room that are between the kitchen and the entry to the house. The setting for the house looks great and they will enjoy a nice view of the woods out of the back of the house from all the living spaces. I'm sure the second floor framing will follow soon so keep watching. Remember, you can also follow the construction with all of the owner's photos at their Flickr site.

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New Mexico EcoSteel House - Observatory making progress

The observatory wall panels are going up now and its starting to look more solid now that there is some meat on the bones! After the wall panels are finished the dome will be mounted. And once the dome is on the instrument is expected shortly there after. More detailed pictures follow in the Flickr slide show below. The instrument pier has been poured and in these photos it is still encased in the formwork while it is curing. The concrete can actually support itself soon after it is cast, but in this dry environment the formwork will actually help the concrete retain some moisture which is needed for the chemical reaction that occurs when the cement sets up. More photos of the work after the jump. Remember you can see photos of the entire build on the Flickr New Mexico EcoSteel House photo set, and all the EcoSteel projects in the EcoSteel photo pool. And for reference you will find more info on the EcoSteel system at

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mass. EcoSteel Plat House - foundation work proceeding

Just a quick update today on the EcoSteel Plat House project in Massachusetts. The digging is done and the footings have been poured. The vertical formwork is going in place. Without checking the code book I'm guessing we are looking at a 48" frost line up there so the footings are deeper than what we have seen on any of the other EcoSteel houses shown in our blog here. After the jump is the photo stream from Flickr. And for reference you will find more info on the EcoSteel system at

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

New Mexico EcoSteel House - Observatory in the New York Times

Could it be? A second LamiDesign project appearing in the New York Times within a matter of weeks? Lightning strikes twice? Well, sort of. This article is all about observatories, and it includes the awesome observatory which is part of our project. Today the Observatory at the New Mexico EcoSteel House was one of several home based observatories covered in an article by Kate Murphy called Adding an Extra Room for the Sky appearing in the Home and Garden section of the New York Times. The article covers some of the technical issues tackled in creating an observatory as well as reasonable idea of the state of the art for the serious amateur astronomer. A great read - if you enjoy the technical background on our project I'm sure you will enjoy reading about the others as well. Steve Cullen, the Owner, felt we would have gotten better coverage if the construction was further along. In fact much of the technical info in the article sounds like it came from our interviews. But Steve is working on them for a second installment. He has big plans for the observatory, including a program where sky time is made available to schools across the nation to expose more kids to astronomy. We will fill in the details about that as it comes together. In the meantime here are the most recent photos from the construction work on the site after the jump. And for reference you will find more info on the EcoSteel system at

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